2009-07-01 / Front Page

Maloney Addresses LIC BID Breakfast Meeting

by Thomas Cogan

Maloney Addresses LIC BID Breakfast Meeting


Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, who qualifies as a pioneering figure in the history of business improvement districts, addressed the fifth annual breakfast of the Long Island City Business Improvement District in late June.  Maloney represents the 14th New York Congressional District, which includes Long Island City, whose “people, energy and future” have her full admiration.  She worried, however, that delays by Albany in releasing stimulus fund monies combined with a heavy maintenance assessment on LICBID, related to the Queens Plaza improvement project, could curtail what she hailed as great progress for the area and the business group that represents it.  Comments on the national picture followed, and after Maloney had spoken and was given an award of recognition, LICBID’s financial and executive directors delivered brief reports and the Leadership and Friend of the BID awards were presented.

Maloney has been in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993 and is currently chair of the Joint Economic Committee of the House and Senate.  In earlier years she was an Assemblymember, where, she told the meeting, she introduced the first bill of her legislative career in 1977, a bill that would enable business groups to organize and raise funds to supplement municipal services such as sanitation and security.  Business improvement districts sprang up in Manhattan a few years later and now there are 64 throughout the city.  The Long Island City BID, established in 2005, is currently facing a maintenance charge from the municipal government that Maloney condemned as a ruinous absurdity. Annual assessments, the funding by which BIDs operate, vary widely, and out of the funds they receive, many BIDs must pay somewhere near 20 percent back to the city for maintenance expenses.  At the moment, LICBID faces a $300,000 expense for work performed at Queens Plaza.  Since its annual assessment is a grand total of $304,000, the charge is nearly 100 percent of it.  Something sensible must be worked out, she said, or the current charge and the delay of the release of stimulus funds by the state legislature will stall work in Long Island City that has already commenced quite seriously.

She said Long Island City currently employs 92,000 workers; a figure t hat has increased greatly in the past decade.  She then reviewed the parade of commercial and residential towers already built or promised for the near future.  Queens Plaza should be an “elegant gateway” to the borough, she noted, but in fact it is “an undistinguished nightmare” that should be “brought into the 21st century”.  She has been quite helpful toward funding the improvement project, bringing it $22 million as a Congressional earmark.  That term, earmark, was once used gladly by politicians to indicate funding they had raised for their districts, but after it was used repeatedly during the lobbying scandals that came to light in the new century, they avoided it.  Maloney remains proud and unapologetic about using it in relation to Queens Plaza.  In addition to the $22 million earmark, the Queens Plaza project should gain $35 million in stimulus funding if it is ever released.  Jackson Avenue, which runs from Queens Plaza to the Pulaski Bridge, “will have the look and feel of an urban boulevard” when current work on it is completed, she said.  The bridge itself, which goes over Newtown Creek into Brooklyn, has recently undergone traffic engineering that has changed it from “a deathtrap” to a safe crossing for pedestrians on its Jackson Avenue side in Queens, she added. 

She segued into remarks about the national scene by praising the late U.S. Senator Daniel P. Moynihan of New York.  Many years ago, she said, Moynihan “tucked a funding formula” for cities into a large nationwide bill that eventually passed into law; and, she added, she has been taking advantage of it throughout her legislative career in Washington.  She said she is head of the Joint Economic Committee for 2009.  It was as a member last year, however, that she was able to see how close the economic downturn came to being a catastrophe.  She has no doubts whatever about her support for legislation allowing TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds and the so-called banks bailout.  “Without credit, it is impossible to do business,” she said, citing as authority Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke’s academic study of the Great Depression and its point that repeated bank failures were the worst aspect of the financial crisis of the early 1930s.  Anything like the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2007 must not be allowed to happen again, she said, gladly observing that 10 banks have already paid back their TARP loans.  Though admitting that the continuously rising jobless rate in the city weighed against it, she expressed cautious optimism for the months ahead, feeling justified by the example of success shown in Long Island City.

David Brause delivered the financial chairman’s report, which showed the BID’s special assessment to be $300,000, with interest of $4,343 in Fiscal Year 2008.  He made a motion to ask that it be increased to $450,000, which motion was passed unanimously.  He said that the city Department of Small Business Services approved all budget cap increases requested last year.  Executive Director Gale Baron praised what she called the increasingly diverse array of bar-restaurants and artists’ studios that has arisen in Long Island City.  She said the painting of the No. 7 elevated station in Queensborough Plaza has been fully funded but would not begin until April 2010.

Eileen Auld of Citibank presented an award to Maloney, and then presented the LICBID Leadership Award to Silvercup Studios, with Gary Kesner accepting, and the Friend of the BID Award to Beatriz de la Torre of Small Business Services.

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